Carbohydrates for nutrition and health

Investigating and developing methods to accurately and carefully determine the effects of carbohydrates on health.

Carbohydrates exist in many forms and are crucial for the proper functioning of our brain, heart, nervous system, digestion and immune system. Some carbohydrates provide energy while others are essential to  keeping the metabolism and immune systems in an optimal shape. CCC projects include: ‘Fibers as prebiotics’,  Quest for novel soluble dietary fibers’ and ‘Slow carbohydrates’.

As an example of CCC research, scientists of the University of Groningen and FrieslandCampina successfully used a transglycosidase enzyme to add sialic acid residues to GOS, using whey proteins as donor substrate, in order to mimic naturally occurring sialylated HMOs. This represents an important step in the development of novel carbohydrate-based food products with promising health functionalities.  CCC is also investigating whether in stock farming, prebiotic carbohydrates can be used to improve the health of production animals, and thus also serve to reduce the use of antibiotics.

Foods produced from biomass containing plant cell wall polysaccharides can contribute substantially to the intake of dietary fiber. Researchers at CCC study the chemical structures of a variety of plant polysaccharides and the effects of defined polysaccharide structures on health.

In several CCC projects bacterial enzymes have been evaluated for their ability to modify starches in different ways, without degrading them. Recently, CCC researchers have characterized a Lactobacillus reuteri enzyme (GTFB) that acts on maltooligosaccharides (including starches) and changes (linear chains of) alpha-1,4 linkages into (linear chains of) alpha-1,6 linkages. The resulting products are largely made up of isomaltooligosaccharides, but generally still contain a low percentage of alpha-1,4 linkages. This IMO-MALT material is not degraded by human enzymes (oral cavity, pancreatic) but is consumed by the bacterial population in the human gut.

This product provides a novel soluble dietary fiber with associated health benefits that may find application in soups, sauces, snacks, etc.

Partners within CCC, including HZPC Holland BV, Averis Seeds BV, Aviko, Royal Cosun, TNO, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen and Hanze University of Applied Sciences, are currently developing high-dietary-fiber potatoes and related products that lower the glycemic response. These potatoes contain starch with a lower digestion rate. These studies aim to bring a healthier potato to the market.